STORM CHASING 2013-2014

Potential was always good today but dry air in the lower levels produced a strong capping inversion which only very high surface temperatures would break. Well today cracked 40° in a number of areas around SE Qld and the Darling Downs so surface heating wasn't a problem. Hopes then lay on moisture being dragged in by a southerly change, which is what eventuated.

The first cell was firing W of Kyogle in NSW by 1pm and heading NE so I took off towards Beaudesert. After arriving I was concerned than continuing S would take me straight into the storm so I diverted W to Boonah then SE towards Rathdowney. The cell seemed to be tracking straight up the Mount Lindesay Hwy so I stopped just W of Rathdowney.

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As the storm continued NE I was torn between following it up the Mount Lindesay Hwy and probably grappling with rain, hail and strong winds, or heading back the way I came which would be safer but take me away from the storm for a while.

Meanwhile the back of the storm was looking rather nice with strong updrafts becoming visible above a likely hail core.

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Normally I prefer to stay ahead of the storms when chasing but this thing looked great from behind so I loitered about for while then eventually headed back around the way I came to avoid driving the storm. Another small cell was now flanking the main storm to its W but it managed to stay well ahead of me.

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A bunch of cells had now taken off from a NW-SE line from Esk down to Byron Bay. My aim at this point was to follow the first storm up Beaudesert Rd but it took off quicker than I expected. Although more activity was developing to the S.

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With storms moving over Mt Tamborine, the next trick was navigating around the mountainous terrain to some decent viewing spots. This is around Wonglepong to the N of Canungra:

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The best road headed S to Canungra and towards oncoming rain before turning N up the mountain. I stopped on the NE outskirts of Canungra as storm activity started closing in from all sides. Being unable to keep up with the first storm turned out to be a blessing as these subsequent storms produced a killer sunset lightning show. The lightning captured in the following photos were all taken using the often unfruitful click-when-you-see-it method - even the shot with the streamers, which I was very surprised to capture.

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The rain started as it just got dark enough to try for the lightning using continuous mode on the camera. I turned the camera around to the NE as the storm tracked over me. The strong colours are an all natural result of the intense sunset:

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The rain finally got too heavy so I retreated to the car.

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I continued slowly N up Mt Tamborine being in no hurry to get back inside the rain.

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Once the rain had passed, more storm activity became visible to the W.

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The location where the gliders take off would be the perfect spot as countless CGs (cloud-to-ground lightning) dropped:

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The following is a composite image of 17 20s-exposures. There were so many similar bolts landing, I thought it would be worthwhile showing them all in one shot than showing 17 similar photos.

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I was also shooting tight with a second camera:

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Rain started falling a little closer with a number of intra-cloud flashes above my head. I hoped like mad for a huge bolt right in front of me but of course it didn't happen.

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This would never get old but the line eventually moved on. I thought we were all done and dusted when I saw flashes to the S. There didn't seem to be anything on radar except for some activity way S between Tweed Heads and Byron Bay so I was a bit surprised at how visible the lightning was.

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A brilliant day today where I think I got a bit lucky as storms popped up all over the place. I sometimes get frustrated at being in the wrong place on some chases so it was nice to be rewarded!